/ Motoring

Should cars intervene on our behalf to keep us safe?


Many cars now come with features that take over in dangerous situations. Are you comfortable with this active safety technology that controls the car for you, or is it something you can live without?

Cars are getting smarter. And regardless of how you feel about it, one of the big goals of the car industry is to move to autonomous vehicles.

In fact, the UK government announced yesterday in Autumn Budget 2017 that it wants to see fully autonomous cars on UK roads by 2021.

But we need to take a step back. We don’t have fully autonomous cars that you can buy today. But we do have a large range of cars with β€˜active’ safety features, so-called as they can intervene to improve safety.

But the questions is – how comfortable are you with these features?

Cruise control vs adaptive cruise control

When I’m driving along in my clunky, old Ford C-Max, there is very little in the way of active safety technology. I have cruise control, and I do use it, but it’s basic and simplistic, and not really a safety feature.

But adaptive cruise control is. Widely available on modern cars, it monitors the road in front of you. Should you be travelling faster than the car in front, the car will automatically slow down and maintain a distance between you and the other car. If the road clears, the car will speed up again to your desired speed.

Some systems are so advanced that they can handle crawling city traffic, bringing the car to a complete stop and then pulling off again when the traffic moves.

And we’re seeing additions to this technology. The BMW 5 Series I tested at the start of the year reads speed signs and adjusts the adaptive cruise control for you.

So, what other active safety features are you likely to find on the new cars of today?

Lane-keeping technology

Basic lane-keeping systems simply warn the driver if they let the car stray too close to the edge of their lane without indicating.

More advanced ‘active’ systems will automatically make steering adjustments to keep you within aΒ lane. It’s worth stressing that the systems are meant as driver aids, and not as a form of autonomous driving.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) will audibly alert the driver to an impending collision. Should no action be taken, the system will automatically perform an emergency stop to either mitigate or completely avoid the impact.

One benefit of having a car with AEB can be that owners enjoy reduced insurance premiums over a comparable model without AEB. Some cars can now also add a steering input to steer you away in order to avoid a collision.

Blind spot warning system

This warning system reduces the likelihood of an accident when changing lanes by alerting drivers to unseen adjacent vehicles. This is normally done via a light in the door mirror, which is often backed up by an audible alert if you still try to change lanes.

Speed-limiting devices

Many cars fitted with cruise control also come with a feature to prevent the car being driven above a pre-set speed. Speed-limiting devices can normally be set to any speed and will gently reduce engine power when it is reached. Many systems will deactivate if the driver floors the accelerator, so they can still react to developing situations on the road.

Tyre-pressure monitoring systems

Having under- or over-inflated tyres can upset the car’s handling and lead to an accident. Tyre-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) warn of incorrect tyre pressures, helping you maintain them at the correct setting.

Active safety technology – are you for it?

What do you think – do you see these features as essential or useful? Would you pay extra to have them on your car or would you expect it all as standard? Does it worry you that too many automated controls are being added to our cars?

Let us know in the comments below, but also take our quiz so we can see which features you see as essential or not.


I changed to maybe a long-standing safety feature – automatic transmission. It makes the driving task simpler by removing some actions, leaving you to pay more attention to the road. I regularly use speed limiting; it is so easy in a built up area with a quiet engine to stray above the limit. And I favour the others listed. My only concern is how far you take control away from the driver; alertness to road conditions, what happens around you, what other drivers are doing requires concentration and reactions to avoid a problem. Maybe too much reliance on automatic systems will detract from this and give drivers a false sense of security? Driving aids – warnings – rather than driving automation might give better results?

Mike P says:
11 January 2019

Malcolm R makes a good point about automatic transmission being a safety feature.
I also have manual paddles fitted which allow manual override of the automatic selection (on mini cooper).. I would not want to be without these in a future vehicle. I find them really useful.

I do not like cruise control. Your feet are not in their logical positions, not doing anything useful and are just as likely to hit the accelerator instead of the brake in an emergency.

We have all had tailgaters up our backsides so technology to keep cars at a safe distance from each other could be considered an essential feature. Same with blind spot warning and tyre-pressure monitoring systems.

Lane-keeping technology is ok as a warning, but not to take control. You might be avoiding an obstacle or pothole.

Speed limiters could be useful, but reacting to speed signs might be problematic as many are defaced or hidden by tree branches.

Too much technology control could create a sort of boredom for the driver where they might not be in full control of the vehicle.

And do we have to worry about car computer hacking?

What you’re partially talking about is adaptive cruise control, Alfa. Nice to use on motorways and especially good for avoiding speed tickets when in built up areas and you’re having to watch both the multiple hazards and the speedo.

One of our Toyotas is fitted with a lot of devices – but the Lidar display which houses many of the sensors sometimes goes into shut down mode on cold days πŸ™‚

Most accidents don’t occur through driver boredom but through driver error, and last year there were 140,086 road traffic accidents in the UK that resulted in personal injury. That works out at almost 12,000 a month, or just under 400 every day. The top five causes:

1. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs
2. Tiredness
3. Excessive speed
4. Distraction – mobile ‘phones, changing radio channels.
5. Failure to react to severe weather

Interestingly, fully autonomous cars could cope rather well with all those issues.

Do autonomous cars automatically give you a breath test?

And how do they cope with fog, snow, black ice?

My car is 19 years old so rather lacking in recent modern technology, but it has managed to stay out of trouble so far with me in full control.

Interestingly, there are devices that can be part of your car that do provide breath testing, but the weather is the real reason these developments could be invaluable, since fog won’t provide an impediment to the sensor arrays. Snow could stop them – as it can with any ordinary car, and which is why we have a Toyota 4 x 4 as well, which goes up any snow-clad incline with relative ease – and the black ice question is another reason, really, why the fully autonomous vehicle should be a lot safer, since its in-built accelerometers will detect any slight drifting well before a human driver could react, and correct accordingly.

I’ve always been a technophile, so it’s worth viewing my enthusiasm in that light, and Duncan does make some very sage points about location tracking and even hacking, as cars have been unlocked (but not, as far as I know, actually started) remotely across continental distances.

But the real reasons I await their arrival with great enthusiasm are the freedom they will afford to the disabled in remote areas and the increased safety they should provide for everyone on the roads.

What make this more interesting they make a car that will help you live a longer life by safer driving, We now have AI to help us with robots to put us out of work, we have wireless tech to turn our lights on & off but what the heck is any of that stuff any good if your dying, why does humanity fix what dosnt need fixing instead of fixing the things that should matter.

There is a theory that pranksters will leap in front of cars to cause traffic chaos. A potential problem which no one seems to wish to address. This of course being fairly typical of the system purveyors ignoring the drawbacks in pursuit of the buck.

Whilst it is nice to think a civil society will not have problems where there is unrest or terrorism the dangers of people using it as a form of protest or disruption of main routes should not be discounted.

My other concern is that micro-sleeps are a problem and the more we simplify driving the more likely people will drive when tired. As the technology already exists for detecting drivers drifting off I think perhaps it should be a mandatory system ahead of those that are convenienta nd likely to make people too relaxed.

The theory was put forward by a New Scientist columnist who argued that because the full autonomous car would have to be – for all intents and purposes – almost entirely foolproof in safety terms, once people began to be able to identify them as such they would come to realise that the normal rules don’t apply and would simply walk across roads as and when they pleased.

I think it has some merit, in fact. The irony would be that because the fully autonomous vehicle was far safer than the human-controlled, that characteristic would be exploited by the opportunistic.

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When all cars – and trucks and buses – are intelligent and inter-communicating I shall feel safe. It’s the intervening period that worries me when there is a mixture of guided traffic and driven vehicles.

Travelling in an autonomous car when a jay-walker steps out in front to cross the road and the car makes an emergency brake application might be good [for the jay-walker], but if the driver behind in a normal control vehicle does not react fast enough then a shunt will ensue. And if the vehicle behind is a 40-tonne truck and the autonomous car is metaphorically a Dinky Toy in comparison then the car will be crushed.

So far trials on empty roads and test tracks look impressive but the reality of day-to-day driving is another matter. Having to keep one’s eyes on the road but have no influence over the conduct of the car will be an odd experience.

A bit like teaching your children to drive! We like to think of technology as “foolproof” but it is not. I’d prefer it if we put a lot more effort into public transport rather than individual vehicles that demand more road and parking space. And research into better and lighter electric storage for all vehicles.

I’d like to see a future where the major road users – commuters – no longer have to spend time travelling, wasting time, to places of work by putting work nearer where they live, and using local offices instead of a single headquarters. Get unnecessary traffic off the roads.

While I agree (and wonder, frankly, why more hasn’t been done) about public transport in urban areas, in many rural and mountainous areas in some ways it’s a non-starter. Don’t get me wrong; it exists, but travelling by horse and cart might be slightly speedier.

However, if (as many companies are suggesting) London becomes something of a commercial wasteland following Brexit then the problem might solve itself. Of course, we’ll then have to be caring for the millions unemployed, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

It’s an intractable problem: commerce tends to flock together and everything else follows.

John: yes – that’s the first time I’ve read a seriously concerning issue surrounding autonomous vehicles. What I can see happening is that the first place autonomous systems will be deployed will be in the stopping arena, in part for the very reason you specify. I would imagine that the creators and designers of AVSs (autonomous vehicle Systems) will already have considered this and will have realised that a shunt is a real possibility, so legislation would be needed to amend the Construction and Use regs to enforce mandatory stopping communication systems between all vehicles, and not simply between the AVSs fitted. It’s really the only way the system can work safely.

The one thing at which the UK excels is technical innovation and software. The Government seems very keen to push the areas concerned, so will, I suspect, be only too willing to legislate accordingly.

Of course, we can also dream that one day inertialess braking will become a reality, in which case we can stop dead when necessary.

There are around 26 million vehicles on UK roads, and their average age is 7.8 years. It will be impossible to fit all these vehicles with devices compatible with automated vehicles. We will have to deal with mixed traffic for many years to come, given the increased longevity of vehicles. I’d expect if we do introduce autonomous vehicles they would be restricted to particular areas and probably segregated from “normal” traffic.

That’s also a possibility, but simple figures can be misleading. There are around 31m cars on the road but there’s also around a third of a million HGVs which, together,. move around 75% of goods around the UK, when rail should certainly be moving most. That’s an aside, however, and while I agree that it’s unlikely that retrospective legislation would be enacted for 100% of vehicles it can certainly be enacted for most and auto braking can be retrofitted comparatively cheaply. John was talking about the instance of the HGV specifically, and I would imagine that legislation pertaining to them will be enacted.

Separation by a highways version of air traffic control using GPS is a possibility. LGV’s and delivery vans are increasingly in communication with their operations bases. By 2025 onwards significant progress could be made towards autonomous driving on major motorways. On exit a transponder would switch off the autonomous control and the human driver would regain control. In urban areas one advantage of autonomous driving would be speed control: no more excessive speeds in residential roads or late-night boy racers tearing up the high street. The emergency services would have to have an opt-out.

And think about this – a computer-managed school run with all movements safely coordinated and synchronised! No more late-for-violin lesson anxiety!

Now there’s an offbeat idea…

And no more speed bumps? πŸ™‚

There would be no need for speed bumps, chicanes, and speed cameras. No parking contraventions on the highway. Disabled bays always clear of obstruction. Roundabouts replaced by signals for pedestrians and inter-linked with guided traffic flows. Buses and taxis given priority at junctions and programmed to make turns banned for other traffic. Electric cars could even book their recharge at a charging station en route. When setting off and loading the destination coordinates and preferred arrival time the system would check the whole journey for congestion and delays and plan the route not just by geography as now but by using all relevant data. Platooning would be directed for optimum efficiency and economy. The module in the car would become a slave to the overall system. Fancy, being in the right place, in the right lane, at the right time, at all times; motoring doesn’t get much better than that. It would be satnav in excelsis.

Dream on John. πŸ˜΄πŸš—πŸ˜΄πŸšπŸ˜΄πŸš˜πŸ˜΄πŸš‹πŸ˜΄πŸšŒπŸ˜΄

Utopia of the future maybe, but we are unlikely to experience it in our lifetimes.

You would not even need anyone in the autonomous car. Just send it on its way to collect the groceries, deliver your report to the office, take granny out for spin. We could just sit on the sofa at home watching the tv channels automatically selected for us by the Data Collection Authority.

In wonder who would be held accountable for accidents when the foolproof technology is fooled?

All these things are needed because drivers are now not taught how to drive but how to pass the basic test a driver who knows how to drive safely and carfully with regard for others does not need any of these “Gagdets” becaues thats all they are to many motorist just an excuse to make you pay for “Gadgets” you dot even ask for … Who will supply me with a car with just the additons I want or might need no one they just add things in packs mostly unwanted items …You have very little choice

For this week’s work expedition “up north”, our hire car was a nice comfy Skoda Octavia.

This came with the full “no frills package”, i.e. no satnav, no cruise control, no parking sensors and only a manual handbrake.

I’m really beginning to like those Skodas…

Lovely car, the Octavia. Wish we’d bought one instead of an Audi. One of the few cars with plenty of legroom and comfort in the rear seats plus a vast boot. Our friends’ Jaguar, for all its length, is surprisingly cramped.

Not as good as an Alfa πŸ™‚πŸ™ƒπŸ™‚πŸ™ƒπŸ™‚

…red with matching rust? πŸ˜‰

Not red and NO rust. That was an optional extra over 20 years ago.

I would like to remain in charge of my car. I am capable of remaining at a safe distance from the vehicle in front and slowing down if it does. I can park my car in a gap without help. I can remain within lanes and remember to signal in adequate time if I want to change lane.

Driving on motorways is tedious and I often turn off the cruise control to help stay alert when driving a distance at night. It works for me.

100% agree with you wavechange except I don’t like cruise control and don’t have it on my car anyway.

I find mirrors an essential safety feature.

Mirrors are simple but effective, but the manufacturers want to introduce blind-spot warning systems. Many of us cope well without them. Some cars seem better than others regarding blind-spots so maybe there is a case for copying good design.

I rarely use cruise control as the motorways and other major roads we generally frequent are not good candidates. However, I support blind spot help – overtaking vehicles can surprise you sometimes when they are not quite past; I’ve seen a number of near misses when the vehicle about to be overtaken has started an overtake manoeuvre itself , abruptly abandoned.

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It’s quite a hot topic in most places, Duncan. It’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Given that it was the owner’s choice to operate an autonomous vehicle I would expect liability for an incident or collision to attach to the driver. The lawyers will have a field day. Perhaps the government, in its enthusiasm to get this show on the road, will change the law and make the driver liable every time without dispute. But that would put many people off owning an autonomous car.

The driver of an autonomous vehicle will not be able to take their eyes off the road and must continue to look out for hazards, and they must be ready to take back control instantly. The theory of automated separation is wonderful until a deer comes crashing across the road – or will they also have to have a plug-in module to broadcast advance warning of their movements?

I don’t believe the Deer scenario is even mildly problematic for the designers, John; animal collisions (random interceptions) was almost the first item on the snaglist.

I believe the truly autonomous vehicle will lead to a huge improvement in road safety, frankly. Having (in a voluntary capacity) worked with the IAM locally and helping assess drivers who were wondering about taking the test, as far as I’m concerned the sooner car control is removed from drivers the better.

It’s easy to believe we’re all better at driving than an automated system, and easy to believe automated systems haven’t yet approached the level of human ability. But honestly the human ability I see, day in, day out makes me wonder if some of the drivers ever attended a driving lesson.

We’re busy finding all the faults at the moment but consider this: the automated vehicle will never take chances, never become stressed while taking the children to school, never become upset at the behaviour of other road users, never take a corner too wide nor a bend too quickly, never park badly, never become bad tempered, irritable, tired, sneeze, cough, blink, get distracted by a wasp of become afflicted by any of the thousand things which flesh is heir to. ‘Tis an automation devoutly to be wished.

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A few years ago a deer came out from trees that bordered a country road and collided with the front of my car. A car would not have stopped in time whether “autonomous” or not. And it could equally have been a child on a bike. Decent drivers will be aware of potential hazards like this and drive cautiously. I think there is faith being place in technology that is not justified (well, not yet). I also wonder whether many people want it. Perhaps if we could make trains totally automatic first? There are more constraints on them – rails, segregated track, automatic signalling, remote tracking – and yet we still rely on alert drivers.

Generally I agree with you, Ian. I think safety will be greatly enhanced, but not before there is very widespread uptake of the technology and it might come in the commercial vehicle sector first.

I don’t share Duncan’s concerns about unauthorised data access – I can’t see why anyone would want to do it and I wouldn’t feel personally at risk. I cannot believe there will not be sophisticated encryption and complete data isolation between the vehicle registration mark [number plate] and the on-board controller. I don’t care who knows where I’ve been because I’ve got nothing to hide – or it’s just another alibi if needed.

I agree with Ian’s comments on driver competence. I was recently waiting for a friend at a traffic-signalled road intersection. I was on one corner of the junction and, with some time on my hands, was observing the traffic. A number of vehicles were turning left off the major road alongside me to enter a side road of restricted width and with vehicles queuing to emerge when the lights changed. I could not believe the number of vehicles that clipped the corner, some by as much as a metre, because they were in the wrong gear for the manoeuvre and going too fast. A number of the vehicles were mini-buses taking children to school or carrying elderly or disabled passengers. Some vehicles swerved so far over into the side road that they had to brake fast and make a rapid steering correction to avoid a collision with the first vehicle in the queue – yet that was probably a route they took regularly.

Ian – I should be interested to know the prevailing view on traffic congestion. If every vehicle proceeds at the correct speed with the correct separation my intuitive response is that our roads cannot cope: it is only bunching and hot-foot accelerations from time to time that keep things flowing. The idealised world of autonomous driving could produce continuously moving gridlock in heavy-traffic areas and at peak times. On the other hand, the total discipline of autonomous control could actually free up road capacity and enable more vehicles to travel along the same sections of road, and with more advanced traffic signal control responsive to route demands and the volumes of vehicles desiring each approach lane the days of the blocked roundabout and other choke points could be over. It could reduce or postpone the need for expensive new roads and capacity-enhancing modification schemes that themselves add to congestion while under construction.

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It is not just the electronics that bother me, duncan, but our ability (or lack of) to design instrumentation and software to consider all conceivable possibilities without error. I am also unsure as to why universal autonomous vehicles are thought necessary. The consequences of equipment failure exist, just as do failures in conventional vehicles and their drivers. I am all for giving drivers additional aids to help the driving workload, but still prefer to give ultimate control to a person, not a complex electronic system where we rely totally on the standards being properly implemented by all the manufacturers who will have to become involved – worldwide.

In all the years I have driven, I have never witnessed a serious road accident happening. Despite traffic increasing, fatalities have halved since 2005, and from what I read now stand, for cars, at around 1.8 per billion vehicle miles. The most vulnerable groups are cyclists – pedal 30.9 and motor 122.3. I don’t know how these forms of transport will be made autonomous to avoid accidents, other than through those involved with cars.

However, clearly any measures that can sensibly be adopted to reduce non-fatal and fatal accidents, will be encouraged. But are autonomous vehicles then the best way? Or is their other motivation behind their promotion – is it technology for its own sake to profit commercially from its adoption. Perhaps the Government have some cost benefit analysis to explain their proposal?

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That is where I stand on it, Malcolm. I can see potential advantages in a fully automated and inter-communicating road transport scenario but am worried about the interim position. As I wrote previously, I think further advances in driver assistance features will make autonomous cars unnecessary. Given that a driver will have to remain at the wheel there is a concern about loss of concentration and sensory detachment from the conduct of the vehicle. Perhaps Ian has more information on this.

For me this discussion is actually academic because I can foresee no circumstances in which I shall be using an autonomous car. It would be good if some younger members of the community gave us their views on this as they will be the first to experience it in real life.

On your last post, Malcolm, nothing you say in it describes autonomous cars exclusively. Exactly the same things can happen to human drivers.

Where I see autonomous vehicles being used most is in the disabled community initially; in our nearest town convoys of mobility scooters merrily mow their ways through the assembled pedestrians, and they travel from the homes to do so. But with fully autonomous cars the disabled could be afforded a much fuller life, and might not have to leave the rural villages they often love but have to leave, because of a poor transport infrastructure. In particular, the development would be a major life changer for the visually disabled.

Helen Krepke says:
25 November 2017

We have a BMWi3 range extender, driving this car is much more relaxing. This car has most of the described features, no blind spot warning. We live in close to and use the M25 where the cruise and the lane keeping technology is very useful. I personally can’t wait for the day when we can have driverless car, great for older drivers and younger drives will not turn in to racing car dirvers.

I think assisting the driver is good but taking over from the driver seems a step too far at the present state of development. Once all the potential ‘assistance’ features have been provided total automation seems unnecessary as it introduces additional risks.

Here is an example of what can go wrong: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/26/google-self-driving-car-in-broadside-collision-after-other-car-jumps-red-light-lexus-suv

I suppose that self-driving cars have the advantage that there will be no drivers to be distracted by making or receiving phone calls.

The car in the top picture looks like a Google StreetView camera car, or is the apparatus on the roof part of its autonomous observation and navigation system?

I notice a plethora of power lines alongside the road in the top picture. I hope the on-board electronics in autonomous cars will be fully immunised from any interference.

In the background of the second picture there is an “Interstate Batteries” van with a deformed hood being reverse-loaded onto a tow-truck. Judging by the impression made in the metalwork of the Google car the van was the likely cause of the impact which must have been fairly forceful – yet the car apparently remained upright, no glass appears to have been broken, the airbags deployed, and no injuries were sustained. This is testimony to the much improved safety characteristics of modern cars, and even the van has a ‘crumple zone’ to reduce the kinetic energy of the crash. In the circumstances described in the article it is unlikely that a human driver of the car would have been able to avoid a worse collision and might possibly have swerved risking impact with other vehicles or people.

It’s not really an example of what can go wrong. Red light jumpers are extremely dangerous to vehicles and I agree that a human driver would likely have fared no better. Of course, enhanced proximity detection and assessment of approach speeds might cause the AV to hold back, as it sensed the approach of a light-jumper.

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Yes, that’s interesting. I can only imagine that the pursuit of this new technology registers more with Americans than with Europeans who appear to be generally indifferent.

Haven’t the unions objected yet ! They always object to progress in anything or so it seems ! Call every driver out on strike ? Why not ?/

6026 says:
11 August 2018

Re Autonomous Emergency Braking : from what I have read in the motoring press and on line some AEB systems are prone to misread situations and may apply the brakes in error. Worrying.

franjam says:
16 February 2019

I’m all for safety aids but have real concerns over handing control over to a computer.
We are told that we must be ready to take control if problems occur. I would find that more stressful than being in control at all times.

Having recently bought a Plug in Prius Hybrid with almost all the safety features listed here I agree it does free the driver to concentrate on what is happening on the road. However I have thought for some time that the great emphasis on speed has meant less attention to other things – although constant changes in permitted speed can mean sudden speed changes to comply with average speed control systems. With automatic speed control and often poor signage of speed changes the car would be changing speed unexpectedly with potential serious consequences.

I am wondering whether we are not getting carried away with anxiety over excess speed control. The system will not drive the car, decide when to speed up or slow down, or even decide what speed to drive at. The driver will be responsible for those decisions. What a speed limiter will do – if I understand it correctly – is intervene if the car is already running at the speed limit and hold it back from exceeding it – presumably with a margin of tolerance. Park-assist systems don’t stop you hitting something when reversing but they emit a warning signal at increasing frequency to advise the driver of an obstacle; if the driver persists in ignoring the warning and continues reversing then a collision will occur. I imagine that, in the initial stages of excess speed, the speed-limiter will do something similar, but there would come a point when it would, through the engine management system, control the speed and the driver would need to react to that and return to driving within the speed limit.

Driving already requires recognition of a number of factors and adjusting the driving style to suit weather, traffic, or road conditions. There have been dire warnings of the need to accelerate hard to get out of trouble; I would say that good drivers do not get into such situations. If you cannot overtake in the space you can see to be clear then you should not attempt it. Driving up to the limit is good practice on well-designed major roads but it is not compulsory and is generally impractical on winding single-carriageway roads. A new driving technique involving patience and tolerance might be necessary for some drivers.

I am also some what perplexed by complaints about frequent changes of speed limits over short distances or poor signage. I believe this is exaggerated. Obviously, the faster you go the sooner it is that a change in speed limit will occur Drivers find it useful when the speed limit rises so why is it a problem in the opposite direction? Generally, the highway authorities seem to make sensible decisions to provide a degree of consistency in speed limits so that they are not constantly going up and down but if your journey involves using different classes of road, or passing through settlements where people are about, then it will not be possible to continue cruising at the speed limit irrespective of whether or not the car is fitted with a speed limiter. On single-carriageway rural roads subject to the national speed limit it is rarely possible to go far at 60 mph because of the curvature, contours and other constraints of the road so the speed limiter would hardly be active unless you were taking a risk. I have to say I am not aware of any instances of poor speed limit signage; apart from anything else the nature of the road, frequency of street lights, amount of traffic, and other circumstances are a good indicator of the likely speed limit. Far from de-skilling drivers, speed limiters are proposed to deal with the lack of good road-skills and awareness by many drivers.

I don’t have an axe to grind on this because I decided a couple of years ago to stop driving, but as a pedestrian and passenger I still have a keen interest in road safety and generally welcome this proposal.

John, the speed limiter in a modern car stops the car exceeding a preset limit – unless you override it by pressing the accelerator hard or when going down hill (if engine braking is insufficient).

While I understand concerns about accelerating hard out of trouble I believe no technology will cope with every situation and the driver needs to be in charge of the vehicle at all times, overriding any gadget if they deem it necessary. It all comes down to good driving.

Whether we should ban people from driving who do not meet a certain standard, as has been mooted, is interesting. These days that would remove essential independence from many so, unless alternative affordable and convenient transport were available I don’t see it as practical.Considering we have two way roads with closing speeds between vehicles of 120 m/h operated by a range of drivers of different competences I think it is remarkable how few accidents occur. We could increase road safety by having all roads one way and cutting down all trees alongside roads……….

It is a sobering thought that most of the road deaths in Norfolk involve just one vehicle where the driver has lost control. Speed is usually a contributory factor but that is a by-product of other influences.

I was assuming that the speed limiters to be fitted in new cars from 2022 would be externally programmed to suit the prevailing speed limit so the control speed would change up and down over the course of a journey and would not be selected by the driver. I have not seen any reference to an override facility in a mandatory system.

The comments in this Conversation and the new Conversation called “UK to adopt speed limiting tech: do you support it?” seem to be all about speed control whereas the Intro to this Conversation covers a wide range of different driver aids and safety systems which have hardly been commented on. Has no one else read the Introduction or have any views on active safety technologies?

“However, the new system as it’s currently envisaged will not force drivers to slow down. It is there to encourage them to do so, and to make them aware of what the limit is, but it can be overridden. Much like the cruise control in many current cars will hold a particular speed, or prevent you exceeding it, until you stamp on the accelerator.

Thanks Malcolm. I missed that.

I have belatedly realised that there are two separate Conversations running in parallel dealing with speed control but this one, on a number of safety features, is more comprehensive.

I am not in favour of banning from driving people who do not meet a certain standard. The police and the courts can do that when people – sometimes fully competent ones – drive badly. I am, though, keen on training people to be better drivers throughout their driving lives and encouraging them to appreciate how to act responsibly as a member of a civilised society in which we respect the lives and concerns of others. Sadly, some people’s brains are lacking any form of arrogance control so are reluctant to take advantage of the opportunities already available to advance their driving techniques, often at little or no cost.